Hi fellow pastors and leaders,
Let me start by thanking Scott Lanigan from Trinity Church in Kelowna for tipping me off about a telephone town hall meeting between representatives from all faith groups in BC and Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. The meeting was to discuss what Phase two would mean for charities. I will list in point form some of the items that were addressed in the meeting.
1. There was deep appreciation from faith group leaders for the way the pandemic has been handled in BC. The three leaders also expressed their appreciation for the way charities have behaved and stepped up to the plate to help others in this time of crisis. They repeated this several times.
2. If you plan to begin services for 50 people and need help with ideas about how to do this safely please call your local public health office. They may be able to come to your facility to help you set it up, but with the work load they have now, it will probably be handled on a phone call.
3. Whether you have a 1000 sq. foot meeting space or a 10,000 sq. foot meeting space, the limit is still 50. If you have one meeting area or 5 meeting areas the limit is still 50. The main reason for the number 50 is not scientific but practical. If one person is infected, it is important that the other 49 be notified as soon as possible. As this number increases, it makes notification that much harder. Also, If people are in different areas in the building in groups of 50, it will become very difficult to monitor their movements going from one area to another, meeting in the parking lot, using washrooms, etc. The number who gather for outdoor services or for a drive in service is also to be limited to 50.
4. A question about why a big box store can have 100+ and a church only 50 was addressed. A big box store is full of strangers who tend to self distance and not greet each other the way those in faith groups might be tempted to do. As an example, one leader told the story of what just happened in their building when they opened it up for a meeting. The meeting was to be for only 50 members, but many more kept coming and he noticed that people were hugging each other even though they thought they had all their rules in place.
5. Kids clubs and day camps can be scheduled, but no overnight camps. This could be a difficult decision to make since kids may have more trouble understanding distancing.
6. It will be important to know who you want in your new bubble because each person you allow in may also have other people that they are in contact with.
7. Dave Fields from Summit Drive in Kamloops asked a good question about how many people could meet in homes for small house church groups. The answer depends on the size of the house, the use of all the precautions of Phase one, and the risk of those now included in your bubble. The suggestion was to keep the group the same each week in the homes.
8. At this point there is no financial help for charities who have had start up costs to move their operations to homes from the building. Premier Horgan said that churches, etc. should keep their receipts in case that is a possibility in the future. They are following the lead of the federal government in many of their financial decisions. Premier Horgan also said that at this point they have not made a decision on tax relief for churches, but that they are looking into it.
9. The charities were encouraged to keep up their work with washing hands, distancing, disinfecting and making sure there are guidelines for movement of people once in the building.
10. Charities may want to keep a record of who is in a service/meeting so that in the case of an infection either the charity or the health professionals can contact those who were in the building with the infected person.
11. Singing is one of the most effective ways to spread the virus from an infected person, perhaps even more so than coughing as the projection goes well beyond the 6M distance. The recommendation is for no singing with others present and if there is some singing, using a mask may help (but it will be hard to sing with a mask).
12. Phase 2 will be in place for 28 days. If the spread of the virus is contained it will mean moving on to phase 3, and if not … other measures will be put in place.
Some churches are prepared and ready to invite people back into their buildings for worship services and meetings for smaller groups. Always be respectful of those who are not ready to expand their bubble. We are so blessed to have digital means to communicate with each other, even if it isn’t the personal nature we all desire.